AMA April 2024 - Training, Diet And Aging: How To Make It All Work For You

Damer

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Aging is one of those things we tend not to think about until it happens to us and then it's troubling to say the least. This is not the 20th century anymore when being 39 was almost literally the middle point of your life and, as this piece on Unilad on James Bond's release of "Goldfinger" draws attention to through actor Richard Vernon who was (shockingly) only 39 when he (an actor and supposedly benefiting of special lighting, make up and, when off-screen, a good life) looked at age 39 like this:

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Featured Image Credit: United Artists

Getting older now is not equated with being old provided, of course, we take the time to understand what it is we have to do and are willing to put in the effort to do it.

Usual AMA rules apply here: try and keep your questions as much as possible on point with the subject. Ask anything that you want to know. As always, there are no stupid questions and you can follow up any of my answers with more questions. I will acknowledge your question by Liking it and reply, usually within an hour or so after Liking it and roughly within 24 hours of you having asked it. The thread will be open for twenty days and it will close on 21st April.

As always, I will bring research to my answers and link to it.

This is a sweeping subject with many layers. In many ways had I known what I know now when I was 25 I'd be in a much better stage of fitness and health. I will open this thread to questions on April 1st as promised. Unlike previous AMAs however I am posting a little earlier because there is material I would, ideally, want you all to have in mind:

1. Our guide on How To Age Slowly
2. A video testimonial on what I currently do to stay younger

3. A video testimonial on my approach to nutrition

4. The three pillars of fitness (these are key to fighting age and I will talk about them extensively here)

5. Finally, three anti-aging exercises you need to keep in mind for yourself. Your ability to perform them or at least train for them is critical.

All this should give sufficient material to see you through the weekend so on Monday, when I open this thread to your questions you will all be primed (I hope). See you all on the other side of the weekend!
 

graoumia

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"Doing Fighter codex / Epic Five"
Hello, Thanks for all these informations.
I hope the answer is not in all this documentation and i miss or misunderstood something. I am wondering if it is because of age or because or being less fit that i have the feeling to need more warm-up and streching? I don't do more but i feel i should. Many thanks
 

Damer

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@graoumia this is an excellent question to kick-off this AMA and it is no really covered in any of the above videos I've posted. You mentioned that you feel that as you get older you need more time to warm-up and stretch so it's really worth understanding what warming-up really does and what stretching really does, first. A warm-up increases blood flow and raises muscle temperature. This helps muscles function better and avoids the risk of injury due to imbalances within a muscle group or, more commonly, across muscle groups as we try to move a joint. Stretching forces muscles and tendons to lengthen and this improves the range of motion of a joint.

As we age we typically lose 3% - 8% of muscle every ten years, after the age of 30 and then at a slightly faster rate per ten years after the age of 60. There is a review study on the subject here. With lower muscle mass we have less strength which means that we have less control of our body and that is expressed through impaired functionality. Weaker muscles require more attention and what a warm up does (we now know) is increase in muscles a particular protein and its satellite neurotransmitters which act as a thermoregulator (a recent study on this is here). This helps muscles perform better and it is particularly important on older muscles that are weaker. The impact of muscle temperature on athletic performance is chronicled in clinical detail in this study here.

Muscles that are weaker because of age are also less stable and provide less control over the range of motion. Unless we work on that we tend to compensate by reducing the range of motion which then makes joints tighter and less mobile. So more stretching is required again, as we age.

This rather bleak picture of aging however is only true if we let it. The body is a highly adaptive machine. If we exercise regularly and stretch regularly we can reverse or halt the loss of muscle so functionality then is just an issue of quality training time and knowing what to do. Warming-up and stretching should not, for instance, be done at the same time. Stretching should be done regularly, preferably after training and at least once a week as a full workout in its own right. This way we force the body to adapt so it maintains strength and range of motion as it gets older.

I hope this has helped answer your question but feel free to ask me anything as a follow-up.
 

graoumia

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"Doing Fighter codex / Epic Five"
Many thanks @Damer , i can confirm, small question, big answer :LOL: But it is needed to explain well. It was very clear and very complete.Tthe article about sarcopenia is very interesting but too much scientific for me. I was not able to be sure if we know why ( i think that it is not clear). I am wondering, if we don't know why, do we know if it is possible to get back the lost muscles (or even more, i think so), and if there is a most important thing to do ? train more, harder, eat more protein, rest more ?

Many thanks again
 

Damer

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@graoumia what an excellent follow up! :LOL: The reason why sarcopenia occurs is not clear, mostly because it is a condition that has root cause in many different primary sources all of which are age related: without being exhaustive the list of causes includes: "...declines in hormones and numbers of neuromuscular junctions, increased inflammation, declines in activity, and inadequate nutrition." A study that details these can be found here. While we may not really know the real cause, the list of possible causes and the fact that it occurs in older people is a clear indication that it is the net result of other issues: poor nutrition, bad lifestyle choices, poor sleeping habits, reduced mobility, lack of exercise, background inflammation in the body etc.

This suggests that it can be halted and, indeed, reversed with lifestyle choices, nutritional choices and self-care that includes adequate rest and exercise. And, as you guess, there is a study for that too.

My take on this, after going through several studies and looking at training protocols is that sarcopenia is easy to diagnose (seeing muscles shrink and weaken is relatively evident, pretty quickly) but hard to combat because the root causes will differ from individual to individual. However the results are the same: loss of muscle. loss of mobility and a reduction in activity. Preventing it, in the first instance, and reversing it if it occurs then is a case of trying out to see:

  • What diet gives you the best results for your training?
  • What kind of training allows you to build muscle and feel more mobile?
  • How much rest do you need to recover and build muscle?
Experimentation on yourself is key here. Don't be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Keep track of everything you do and the results it gives you. Seek to better understand how your body responds to the daily stress of life and try to protect it better. Strive to exercise every single day of your life (but allow time within that for changes of intensity and adequate recovery). Think how you can get better quality sleep.

If you do all that then there is no reason to expect to suffer from sarcopenia and the problems associated with it. I hope this answers your questions.
 

Fremen

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Shaman from Italy
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"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
I have noticed that my body cannot tolerate training with weights, dumbbells, barbells and various machines in the gym, while bodyweight strength training does not give me problems, I have much less joint pain, I recover more quickly and I rarely get injured.
I don't know if this is more to do with the fact that I've never really done weight training in the past or is also a bit age related :)
 

Damer

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@Fremen it's such a simple question you ask and its answer is not simple at all. To unpack it as completely as possible it's key now to look at what aging actually is in the body. Bear in mind that there is no broadly agreed scientific consensus on what causes aging which, given the fact that science has yet to discover what life is; as in the point at which a bunch of self-organizing atoms that can be found anywhere in nature suddenly become sentient and express themselves as individual people, is hardly surprising.

Broadly speaking however and from my lens of chemical engineering there are three key ingredients that contribute to it which are interrelated: Biological (i.e. the time-related deterioration of the function of cells), functional (i.e. the reduction of physical capabilities) and neurochemical (i.e. a change in the hormones and other neurotransmitters in the body, brain and gut). There is a medical paper that explains this in a little more depth here.

The body can be reduced to an organic machine that's self-building and self-repairing that is driven by a single primary line of code as its operating system: to reduce the energy expenditure required to get it through each day and, as a result of this approach, its entire life. To do this it creates adaptations that are designed to optimize its function and the adaptations that have the greatest impact and more lasting effect are the ones that result from repeated exposure to a stimulus.

To now take all this down to what you experience, your body has adapted best for bodyweight training because what it has been exposed to the most. So, when you now introduce weight training (which you must, I fear) it rebels. It tries to adapt too quickly by becoming inflamed (which is an adaptation response) and then you experience dysfunction in the form of aches and pains that affect joint mobility.

If you had started to train with weights a little sooner you'd have experienced the same join aches and pain but you would have recovered more quickly but now aging also kicks in. In each cell in our body there are tiny 'cell engines' called mitochondria and they are responsible for the production of all the chemical energy that powers each cell's biochemical reaction. In humans, like in most animals, with time, the number of mitochondria in each cell is reduced (read about this here) which means that at a cellular level we're no longer as powerful as when we were younger. On top of this mitochondria suffer oxidative damage over time (read about that here) which further impairs their function.

So now, a little older than before, you're trying to make your body respond to a new stimulus when it has less capacity for quick adaptations. Hence what you're feeling is normal. What you need to do is make sure that your process introduces weights training persistently but gradually, allow time for recovery, make sure your sleep and nutrition are on point and be patient. Your body will gradually adapt, get stronger and moving weights about will become easier so that you will then have to find fresh ways to challenge it by either increasing the load (there is a ceiling to how far you can safely take this approach) or introducing other variables like less in-between rest time or a greater aerobic load or a combination of the two.

As far as injuries go I hope this video helps to better understand what you need to do so that you're injury-free forever.


I hope this answers your question. :LOL:
 

Fremen

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"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
I would say that where I sin is not giving my body time to adapt by demanding an increase in training which is not sustainable over the long distance, too much and too quickly.
The road is uphill and I have to have a lot of patience :LOL:
I'll start with maybe one Darebee kettlebell workout a week.
Thanks for the thorough answer :please:
 

graoumia

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"Doing Fighter codex / Epic Five"
Thanks again @Damer . As a women, i know that aging means more belly fat, if we don't care, but the hormons are playing a role in this. But is there something else related to aging that is influencing the weight gain? On top, of course of losing muscles, as we then consume less calories?
 

Damer

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@graoumia awwww, what a can of worms this is! Where do we start? Ideally back at the beginning but hopefully after the moment the asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and made room for mammals to rule the Earth. :LOL: Let's start with two basic questions: What is fitness? And, what is exercise?

The video below pretty much answers the first one:


The second one is even easier to answer but the answer immediately raises the complexities that lead to your question. The answer to what exercise is, is that it is a system of energy management. We need to exercise in order to manage the excess energy we put in our body (which leads to fat) and we need to exercise in order to help our body develop and thrive as opposed to just surviving.

Part of this energy management profile is broad and defined by age and gender so that, for instance, young men tend to burn more calories than young women when everything else is equal because their body composition is different and their daily mobility levels are different. Similarly younger people tend to burn more calories than older people for largely the same reasons.

But part of this energy management system is personal: it comes down to your gut microbiome, your hormonal profile, your exercise history, your past and current lifestyle and dietary choices and, of course, how active you are overall and how strong you are overall. As we age, men and women, tend to put weight on. We used to think this was down to an aging (and slower) metabolism, but recent studies showed that this was not the case. So that weight gain happens from two primary factors of which we directly control only one:

  • Age related hormonal changes and, in women, perimenopause (and eventually, menopause)
  • Loss of muscle mass, strength and mobility
Obviously the second is the one we control directly and it is up to us to do what we can to exercise that control. The first one, however, is true bugbear, especially if you're a woman. The British Menopause Society, in its literature, cites a study that suggests "that on average women gain approximately 1.5kg per year during the perimenopause transition, resulting in an average weight gain of 10kg by the time menopause is reached." Most of that weight gain usually takes place around the waist and in the upper body. It's a significant amount of weight during a period when women feel they're losing control of their own body.

All is not bleak however. While hormonal changes are happening which affect how the body manages food (energy input) and exercise (energy output) a 2019 study showed that with careful management of both food intake and exercise it is possible to manage better this weight gain so that you don't feel like your body is out of control.

Aging males are also affected by changing hormones in their body, primarily testosterone levels. The answer to this is, again, careful management of it through intentional lifestyle, diet and exercise choices.

To be fair none of this is easy. We're being asked to reduce unwarranted stress in our daily life, make better choices in our selection of what to eat, and put a plan in place that makes daily exercise easier to do. We all, without exception, wish that all of this was as easy as when we were young when it appeared that we could east whatever we liked, had next to zero stress and were active without effort. The alternative to not doing what we need to do however is that we accept that we will get weaker, frail and less active and that is not really much of a choice at all.
 

Deadoks

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@Damer thank you!
Amazing questions and replies, I enjoyed to read them.
If I take my experience I'm now just 46 and while I always did sport in my life I feel that going back to it is harder and harder after a (significative) pause. It takes me longer and longer to get my condition back to normal/fit.
Here after nearly 100 days doing quite some programs, challenges, paying attention to my food, I still feel that my condition is not back to normal and definitely not feeling like the fit I want to recover. My heart is not getting it back like before while my muscle and mind are both ready for it.
Is that the heart while getting older can't get is condition optimum like before?
Is there a way to train to heart that is more adapted to get the condition back?
 

graoumia

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@graoumia awwww, what a can of worms this is! Where do we start? Ideally back at the beginning but hopefully after the moment the asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs and made room for mammals to rule the Earth. :LOL: Let's start with two basic questions: What is exercise? And, what is exercise?
Thanks @Damer, i am not sure is the 2 questions are for joke or a typo

As you said we can ask anything, i will continue, what is the impact of exercise history? it is not directly related to aging maybe, or maybe it is ???
 

Damer

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Thanks @Damer, i am not sure is the 2 questions are for joke or a typo
My fault @graoumia it should have been "What is fitness? And, what is exercise?" I apologise and thank you for spotting it. I have now amended that in my answer.

The impact of exercise history is not directly related to aging but it is directly related to our biological age as opposed to our chronological one. Some aspects of aging are inescapable:

  • The number of mitochondria in each cell will be reduced regardless
  • Our brain will experience a small reduction in volume
  • Our arteries will experience some plaque build-up
Where exercise history comes into it here is on the effect all this has on us. If we have exercised consistently, for instance, if our weight has never fluctuated wildly, if we've always been active all our life then our ability to continue to do so is easier because we just have to find ways to continue to do what we've always done as opposed to starting afresh and trying to build up which is harder. Studies show that sustained and sustainable levels of physical activity decrease the risk of earlier death and increase our healthspan. So the past, in this case, is with us in the present and it guides our future.

This doesn't mean that it's too late if you weren't active in the past. We know from data that the moment you start to exercise you are literally turning your biological clock back, but it is a harder hill to climb (to use a metaphor) than if you've always exercised.

Your questions have been nothing less than excellent! I cannot tell you how much I've appreciated them. Anything else that comes up, please, fire away!
 

Damer

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@Deadoks what an excellent case you bring up! Let's start with dispelling some ideas about the heart or more correctly the cardiac muscle.

Cardiac muscle, as indicated by physiological studies is made up of sarcomeres (the actin/myosin coupling) that allow for contractility. Contractility is necessary because the heart is a pump needed to squeeze blood to every part of the body that needs it. Unlike most skeletal muscle however the heart is under involuntary control and one feature it has that is unique to it is "...the presence of intercalated discs" these are specific bands of connective tissue that essentially allow cardiac muscle cells to connect in a specific way at different junction points. (Read more about that here). This means that the heart is trained through repetitive mechanical tension and occasional intensity, just like any other muscle in the body and responds through adaptations, to exercise, like any other muscle in the body.

Quite rightly however you report that going back to fitness after a lay-off is harder and harder even if your muscles are up to it. There are two reasons for this and both of them are age-related I'm afraid. The first one is that, as I mentioned in my answer to @Fremen the mitochondria present in each cell decline with age. It's like having a fast car with a bigger engine. It covers a particular distance much easier than one with a smaller engine which can do it in the same time but must work harder.

Now what happens when we stop exercising is that muscles become de-trained (they become weaker first and then smaller) and aerobic fitness drops significantly. Just a two-week lay-off requires eight weeks of intense training to return us to where we were before lay-off. There is an interesting study on this here. The time it takes to get back to fitness only goes up the longer we've been laid off and the older we are. This is one of the reasons I strongly advocate for training very day.


Aerobic fitness loss, like you experience, happens because the body retracts the extra capillaries it had built in the lungs that allow it to take in more oxygen with each breath. So now you've lost some oxygen capacity. As muscles de-strengthen they also shrink in size. As they shrink in size the body also destroys the extra capillaries it had built to supply them with oxygen and nutrients as they worked. The reason the body retracts or destroys all these capillaries is that they are energetically expensive to maintain and by stopping our physical activity we stop giving it a reason to do so.

So, after a lay-off you have two problems:

  • First, with each breath you take you get less oxygen than before to dissolve into the blood and be transported via the red blood cells to the muscles that work.
  • Second, the muscles themselves also now lack the adequate network of capillaries and veins to make the best use of whatever oxygen there is in the blood already
The net result of that is you (or any of us in that situation) get out of breath (which is not the same as breathing heavily). Gasping for breath so we feel we have to stop and an elevated heartbeat are all signs that we're going too hard, too fast and the heart and body have not yet adapted.

The solution here is patience and persistence. Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you need to and be patient on the time it takes to get there.

I really hope this helps you understand better what you experience and, as with everyone else on the thread, any related question that comes up please ask.
 

Deadoks

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"Berserker"
Thank you @Damer
Now what happens when we stop exercising is that muscles become de-trained (they become weaker first and then smaller)
Is it also the case with the heart doh? I have been told from the time I'm young that if you do sport when you grow up you'll get a bigger cardiac muscle and so it'll help you all your life. I was very active when I was young and my pulse is was around 42-45 in the morning. the doctor always said that my heart was big and that he saw I was doing a lot of sport.
Then now I can say my pulse in the morning (awaking) is around 56-60. My heart is the same I guess, a big pump but my condition, cardio is less for sure. Would it be then my heart is smaller then when I was younger? I mean, this heart rate goes faster years after years but when I was 26-34 I was also in good shape (even coaching people at that time) and my rate was maybe then 48-50 (I have to find my training files I have that all there).

About joints and muscle pain!
One day I took a fork on the floor and while going up I did a moaning sound, not about pain but yeah it came... And a friend told me immediately, "Heh you also feel the 40ies mate".
I was not paying attention to this until that moment but I realise that even when I do activities, walking, sport etc... My joints are less easy to go with, I mean it's not really pain but it's more like a door that needs oil. It's the same for muscles and the time it takes to recover from a heavy working for example.
I'm now doing the Darebee programs and challenge that use mostly active rest days but i feel that my rest days needs to be longer to not cause any injury to myself.
So I feel like today I need to train more to keep my muscle mass, train more to get my condition back but at the same time I must also rest more to save my body. And f... I'm only 46 haha!
I'll not speak (yes I do) about the under part of the back that is sometime painful but mostly due to wrong position and practise of live during years and years. I'm lucky I have some lower back pain sometime but this is not so hard to handle, could be way worse like my father.
It's not really a question but I'm sure you see what area I wanna develop here.

Thanks for the input and have a great friday!
 

Damer

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@Deadoks excellent follow-up and your questions are on point. The cardiac muscle is designed to work all our life so it is already strong to begin with. But can we make it stronger? For sure. Regular aerobic training and the occasional High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) have been shown to make the cardiac muscle stronger so that it pumps more blood per stroke and also make some of the cardiac ventricles larger so that the heart can handle greater volume in each stroke (one study on this is here).

Like any other muscle in the body the heart responds to exercise that triggers specific adaptations. When it adapts it handles volume much more easily and it can send blood to the muscles more easily as well as transport CO2 and metabolites away from the muscles more easily. When we stop training the heart also becomes de-strengthened over time, but because it beats every minute of the day anyway, this de-strengthening only becomes apparent when we try to go back to the level of exercise we did before. Cardiovascular fitness however, as you already said, doesn't work on its own. It's part of aerobic conditioning. The heart improves in tandem with the lungs and both need to be targeted through cardiovascular and aerobic exercises.

Now joints and aging. :LOL: Your experience is also a common one. As we age we accumulate some aches and pains. Some of these are natural as well as inevitable: past injuries, certain neuromuscular inequalities or malfunctions, some wear and tear because of repetitive use that causes some kind of maladjustment to take place. An aging body needs to deal with all of this. In addition it also has to deal with:

  • Naturally occurring underlying inflammation in muscle tissue and joints that impairs function
  • De-strengthened muscles because we are no longer as active
  • Fewer mitochondria at cell level which gives us less energy
  • Accumulated issues from bad lifestyle choices
  • More stress in our daily life
All of these find their way into joint movement (which is how the body actually moves) that is no longer as easy as it used to be. The way round this is strength training and HIIT workouts. Strength training targets the muscles and forces them to remain stronger as we age, these muscles, in turn, stabilize the joints and make it easier for them to move. And stronger muscles than what we need partially compensate for biomechanical impairments that are due to repetitive use and wear & tear much like a stronger heart and lungs allow us to maintain VO2 Max to a really old age (there is a study that looked at that here).

The same goes for back pain. As we age, because of lifestyle situations (like sitting a lot each day) we need to now work specifically to strengthen parts of our body that in the past we didn't even have to think about. (I am no different. My day job has me sitting in front of a screen for hours at a time, I work extra hard to maintain spine health and spine mobility).

The good news is that exercise is the cure. Provided we structure it so that we work smarter not just harder and also work to address our trouble spots rather than just blindly workout in ways that make these trouble spots worse.

Thank you for bringing all these additional layers to this AMA with your questions and, as always, feel free to come back with anything that pops to mind on this.
 

Fremen

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Shaman from Italy
Posts: 3,271
"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
Is there any strength training that is recommended over others as you get older?
I've noticed that when I use kettlebells for strength training I have much less pain and joint problems and I wonder if this isn't due to the fact that the weights lifted are much less than using barbells or dumbbells for example.
 

Damer

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@Fremen brilliant question and you kinda answered it already yourself. However I will expand it a little and add some of the background mechanics we all need to have in mind when we exercise.

The body responds to exercise and gets stronger because exercise is a stimulus that triggers adaptations. The adaptations exercise triggers make the level of exercise we engaged in, in order to trigger them redundant so now we must find a new level to engage in, in order for the body to gets stronger. If the body was a closed environment constantly varying the level of exercise we engage in would make it stronger and stronger, but it's not. It's an open environment that is constantly adjusting its biochemistry in order to be stable even though its environment changes daily. It also has a ceiling. For instance we can't keep n increasing the weights we lift forever. At some point we will reach a plateau and then we will need to introduce other variables like less rest time or slower speed or greater speed.

Some of the thinking behind this is covered in this video:


And this handy guide.

All of which now brings us to your experience and your question. Without question, as we get older, we need to engage in resistance training. But do we need to train harder or longer? Do we need to lift volume or heavy weights? The answer to that will actually be different for each person depending on what they're accustomed to do, how well they rest and how well they eat. Nutrition and quality sleep are more important here for the outcome than the weights themselves but the weights also play a role.

Because older bodies experience inflammation already (some of it occurring naturally due to environmental factors and some of it due to the aging process) they need more rest time. They need more rest time also because they recover a little slower from exertion. But increased rest time leads to de-strengthening just when we need to achieve the opposite. So, without getting over-prescriptive on what to lift, when and how often the safest path to gaining strength and maintaining it as we get older lies in consistency: train every day.

Obviously you can't do the same things every day. Intensity, weight and rest time between sets will vary. To make this sustainable lifting lighter weights more often becomes better than lifting heavy ones that tax the body so much that you need a day or two to recover. Similarly, light intensity that allows daily exercise beats heavy intensity that also requires breaks.

Your direct experience of feeling better with kettlebells is because they are lighter and also they produce a slightly different force on the joints (because they hang differently in our hand than a barbell or dumbbell). Anything that allows you, personally, to achieve the goal of daily training is a massive win and the most sure-fire way there is to gain and maintain strength with age.

I really hope this helps.
 

Fremen

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Shaman from Italy
Posts: 3,271
"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
Thanks for the reply, always interesting.
Since I've been attending Darebee and as the years go by, the question that always pops in my head is: how can I train better? Not more but smarter.
After training every day for years, I wouldn't go back but I realize that I always have to be good at balancing training so that it's still training but also fun, so vary it and choose things that work for me.
So I continue to study, be interested and experiment :)
 

Deadoks

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"Berserker"
@Damer to speak of the beginning... aging also include younglings.
I'm curious because my son is 7 and he told me today he wanted to train like me, not only cardio (because he's already quite active, but also his muscle.
So when we grow old we loose some stuff as you explained.
But what happen when we are young and we do fitness, or not... Is it better to wait for strength or is it a myth about it stopping the body growing up?
What is the things we should avoid for young children? What is the things we should put first?
 

graoumia

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"Doing Fighter codex / Epic Five"
Hello @Damer I was wondering how to test our level of fitness?, how to determine what is getting more weak than the other part and need to be focus more. For some parts it is easier, but with age the memore declines too :LOL: and sometimes we don't remind well how we were when we were younger and what we were able to do or not. I looked at the stand to sit test video, and i have to try it, but i am a bit afraid to fall when sitting.
I also remark that i am not very less flexible than before, but it just need some times : if i wat to touch my toes, i just need to wait a few seconds that everything relax and that my hands go down...
 

Damer

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@Deadoks This is a really good question. There are a lot of myths regarding strength training and body development in young people and a lot of these are anecdotal and not supported by scientific evidence. The American Academy of Pediatrics on its website specifically says: "Well-designed resistance training programs have not been shown to have a negative effect on physeal (growth plate) health, linear growth, and cardiovascular health in youth. " I will get a little bit deeper in their wording in a moment but first let's go back to our own basic understanding of what exercise actually is: "...a system of energy management"

This means that we need to take into account that a young body is already spending a lot of energy on growth and development. If we now take some of that energy away from it to exercise (with resistance training on this occasion) without supporting it with sufficient rest and nutrition (the other two pillars of fitness):


Then, obviously, it will need to compensate by prioritizing what it thinks is most important to it. The times when this happens are extreme because, I think, the situations that have given rise to the myth are also extreme. Scientific data specifically supports that shows (as in this 2021 study) that the benefits are many and the primary concerns are mainly on safety (as in using equipment properly) and injuries. The study also highlights the importance of preparation (and to some degree, maturity) at a psychological level.

This is where the wording of the American Academy of Pediatrics, actually comes in. A young body has to split its energy between growth and development and fitness. If we apply correct rest and nutrition we must take into account that developing joints and physical growth present an additional challenge: ligaments and tendons stretch as they grow, muscles get longer as well as bigger. These changes represent challenges to coordination and also present an issue with natural de-strengthening that must be taken into account.

If your son, for instance, can lift a 5kg weight in a particular movement one month but, as he grows, he can't the next month and you force him to, you're putting excess pressure on growing joints which invites the risk of injury. So provided that you are careful and kind (so that you don't see your son's growing ability as an achievement for yourself) there is no reason he cannot start to strength=train as early as possible.

This study here, mentions numerous benefits for strength-training in children and adolescents and, interestingly, also has data that supports a reduction in sports injuries at a later date, which also makes total sense. This is all backed by earlier studies that show only benefits provided care is taken not to overdo things and have a structured caring approach.

One study that may be of particular interest to you shows that age 7 is the lowest, appropriate age for a child to start resistance training. We already know from countless other studies that good body composition and strong muscles help with longevity and increase healthspan. Lifelong fitness that includes strength training is, logically, life-changing.

I really hope this helps you with your son.
 

Damer

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@graoumia you're right memory cannot be relied upon when it comes to fitness, plus our own sense of what we can do changes over time and all we feel is the effort required. There are different, established, ways like the Cooper test that measures how far a person can run in 12 minutes and checks that against an age chart. The thing is, we're all different. We have already seen how our lifestyle, environment, personal support network, socioeconomic conditions and even our level of education impact on fitness by guiding our choices. Most professional tests, in my opinion, are useful to help us determine our biological age versus our chronological one. Apart from that establishing, for our self, how fit we are should come down to a single test: can we move as we want to?

The example you gave on touching your toes is a good one. What if you start training specifically to be able to do just that? Reach down and touch your toes without having to think about it twice. What would it take? Obviously lower back stretching exercises but also lower back strengthening exercises. Strong hamstrings which means you also need strong quads. Abs that can then support your body as it folds and straightens up afterwards. Strong glutes to support the entire movement. So, that one 'simple' movement, in order to improve will require stretching and strengthening of the entire body pretty much and if you were to set out to improve just that, you would find that your entire level of fitness improves as a result.

So my answer to your question on fitness levels as we age, is: establish what you want to achieve for yourself and then set out to get it, if it's possible. Fitness is always a personal journey but fitness as we age is a personal exploration into a territory that is still, relatively, unknown. We need to be willing to be brave and experiment on ourselves.

I really hope this answers your question.
 

graoumia

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Posts: 196
"Doing Fighter codex / Epic Five"
Many thanks again @Damer. I was thinking to ask you in the video message, but i have the feeling that the back is one of the most problematic area when we age, so i think that this question may also suits to this thread. I just hope AMA is still alive. What specific can we do for our back? Not only to prevent pain, because on this i think muscles and streching are key. But i can see some old persons with very archy back, and this is very frightening to me. is posture watching and exercice enough to prevent it? I was wondering , as i listen that tou are working hard on your back because of sitting all day , if you would have some exercices to advice, like you did helpfully on other areas, either for the back, or maybe more globally on sitting correction ? Maybe not there but in a next video ... Up to you, if possible. Thanks
 

Damer

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@graoumia that's a great question and thank you for the video suggestion. I've put it on the list of videos we need to shoot. In the meantime, you're right the back, as a whole is problematic, funnily enough for the same reason the abs are: It's relatively flat in action. It doesn't move in a major way. It doesn't even flex the way abs do when we do a sit-up. And although it is strong because it works all the time, at the same time, it can de-strengthen gradually as we become less active or end up sitting at a desk in front of a screen for hours each day and that's when the problems begin.

The curvature of the spine, the poor posture you note with older people is the result of that de-strengthening. Of all the muscles in the body the ones in the abdomen de-strengthen last because they need to protect the viscera and also help support the spine to some extent. As a result they pull the body forward as the lower back muscles weaken and we end up walking about all stooped.

Fixing our posture is critical because there are so many muscles involved in it. I would suggest three distinct workouts here:

Posture - https://darebee.com/workouts/posture-workout.html
Posture Perfect - https://darebee.com/workouts/posture-perfect-workout.html
Spine Stability - https://darebee.com/workouts/spine-stability-workout.html

You will immediately feel the difference after just one of them.

I really hope this helps.
 

Damer

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@graoumia your question raises such an important point. Glutes are often overlooked when it comes to mobility and posture and spine stability. On their own the gluteal muscles are not directly involved in supporting the spine or the lower back but they are directly involved in hip mobility and pelvis positioning. As a supporting muscle group they play a key role in maintaining the correct biomechanics of the pelvic area, the hips and the lower back joints and, because of that, they are an important ingredient in having a healthy spine, a strong lower back and good mobility as we age. Thank you for raising this question.
 

graoumia

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"Doing Fighter codex / Epic Five"
Thanks @Damer, very clear and not so long :LOL: .
I was thinking about this subject and an example near me, my grand-mother, who will be 97 in june. She is quite healthy, and we can say very healthy regarding her age. She is doing all the home cleaning almost alone, the shopping, and aqua bike sessions. But she has never worked hard for muscles, she has always workout, but i consider her as healthy, but not strong. I have the feeling that there is a very small frontier there, but not very clear. But maybe there is also a genetic factor here, and maybe there is also a link with morphology, because she is very thin, and i think that this kind of morphology don't tend to have big muscles. Sorry if it is a bit confused
 

Damer

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Not in the least confused @graoumia how we age and how healthy we remain has a genetic factor (we can't do anything about that one,, really), a physiological one (our exercise routines) and a neurobiological/psychological one (our lifestyle and lifestyle choices). We train to be strong so we can be capable as we age. If we are capable it means we are mobile and if we're mobile we live longer and age better. In the past we used to accept that aging meant we got weaker, not just older. We now know we don't have to but we must work for it. Our generation has broken boundaries (see the example of the picture in my initial post). That film was released in the year I was born. Most people back then lived at most 67-70 with retirement happening at 62 (voluntarily) and 65 (compulsory). Now we can all expect to live well in our 80s. What's changed between 1964 and now is our understanding of fitness and health not genetics.

Your grandmother sounds amazing BTW and the post-war generation was one of the healthiest ones on record. They were active and their diet was on reduced sugar and fat.
 

Lady Celerity

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from The Woods. NorCal
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"..one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on.."
Thanks for bringing up issues with the back. I'll jump in with another back related question. I was told to do weight-bearing exercises due to some areas of osteopenia and osteoporosis. But I'm a bit confused as it seems that almost all exercises are considered weight bearing except for swimming? What weight bearing exercises promote strong bones even after they have become brittle? Should high impact exercises be avoided?
 

Damer

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@Lady Celerity this is such an excellent question! To better answer it I will fill-in the framework around it. As we age one of the most marked changes in our bodies that often goes unseen until it is almost too late is bone mass loss. The National Council on Aging states on its website: "Our bodies have a natural mechanism for removing old bone and rebuilding new bone. But after age 50, we start losing bone faster than we can build it. In fact, due to this accelerated process of bone loss, women can lose up to 20% of their bone density within 5 to 7 years following menopause."

This weakening of the bones which we now know also play a role in brain health, takes initially the loss of mineral density in the bones and this is called osteopenia and secondly, if we do nothing about it, the form of structural changes in the bones themselves that make them lighter, weaker and more fragile and this we call osteoporosis. Generally speaking osteoporosis can be mediated but not reversed, while osteopenia is considered to be mostly reversible.

Incidentally, precisely because building strong bones works best at an early stage a study that looked at the ideal age for resistance training feeds right into @Deadoks earlier question about his son and shows a lot of positive results for children as young as 8 to start supervised resistance training. That study is here.

With that, let's now unpack how everything we've covered in this AMA fits together. Strong bones are the scaffolding anchoring muscles and tendons. If we have strong bones we usually have strong muscles and tendons and we're more active and mobile so our overall health and fitness remain at a good level. Higher levels of fitness and mobility mean better control over our body and better balance. This reduces the likelihood of a bad fall that would result in a broken bone. The CDC reports that in the age group over 60, one in four adults will suffer a fall which will lead to a cascade of bad health outcomes which makes a fall the leading cause of death for this age group.

So, even if we cannot reverse osteoporosis, if we take action that gives us an increase in muscle strength and tendon strength we improve balance and we make it less likely that a fall is going to be so much out of our control that we will then suffer a series of health-related issues that can lead to an early death.

This brings us to the burning questions: how do we reverse osteopenia and what can we do about osteoporosis?

The answer here is multi-faceted. The best results are achieved when we are persistent and patient and we engage in a variety of activities that include:

  • Balance and flexibility
  • Strength and stability
  • Aerobics
And, at the same time, watch our diet and nutrition. A 2013 study, for instance, showed that introducing dried plums to our diet contributes to the reversal of osteopenia and osteoporosis with some subjects. When even 12 minutes of Yoga can help strengthen bones, according to one study, specific strength-training exercises should have better results. By and large, they do. A 2016 study showed the older women with osteoporosis could partially reverse it through a 16-week strength training regime. A similar study that also included high-impact work concluded the same thing for men. And we see similarly beneficial results from studies that focus on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

What we can conclude from all this is what we intuitively know anyway:

  • We're highly adaptive organisms
  • If we increase the external stressors our body experiences through exercise it responds by adapting and becoming stronger and younger (at least biologically)
  • We can reverse much of what we call "aging" if we create a structured training and lifestyle regime that allows for exercise, rest and good nutrition.
I must stress that none of this is easy. An aging body, especially one that suffers from symptoms of osteopenia or osteoporosis requires extra amounts of patience and persistence. If we do too much, too fast we risk further de-strengthening muscles that are already weak because of the inflammatory response which is part of adaptation and that may feel like we're going backwards in what we want to achieve.

So it's important to create a fitness strategy in this instance that's kind to ourselves, allows for a lot of time and is persistent so we can experience the effects we want in the end.

I hope this helps answer your question.
 

Lady Celerity

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from The Woods. NorCal
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"..one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on.."
Thank you! This helps me tremendously as I put together an exercise plan for my specific needs. The studies you linked were very interesting as well. I understand better what types of exercise I need to focus on. And I have learned the hard way that doing too much, too fast definitely sets me back.
 

Damer

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Ah, @graoumia this is something I've long considered in relation to my own science training. Aging is a physical process of degradation so, truly it is a thermodynamic process governed, like every other thermodynamic process in the universe, by entropy. This basically means that leaving our body to its own devices entirely will cause it to age and die and fairly quickly at that. The good news within that is that we can intervene through diet, nutrition and exercise to slow down the entropy element of aging. And the one bright light prompted by your question is that it appears that after 70 we seemingly stop aging, or at least entropy slows down sufficiently for the body to appear to stay mostly the same and after we hit 100 we basically refuse to decline any further.

The magic for us is to get as strong, fit and healthy as we possibly can before we hit 70. And then continue to do everything we can for as long as possible. :LOL:
 

Damer

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There's only a couple days left before I close this thread and move it over to our Knowledge Base. Any remaining questions you may have, now's the time to place them here. :LOL:
 
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